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The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics, Explained

9 Oct , 2012


This hot-off-the-press video from the science-explainer folks at Sixty Symbols does a great job of detailing the science of the work by Serge Haroche of France and American David Wineland, which won them 2012 Nobel Prize in physics today. Their experiments on quantum particles have already resulted in ultra-precise clocks and may one day help lead to computers that can work faster than those in use today.

The video also shows how expectations were that the prize might go to the teams at the Large Hadron Collier for the discovery of what they called a “Higgs-like boson” — a particle that resembles the long sought-after Higgs.

But, back to the winners: Haroche and Wineland showed in the 1990s how to observe individual particles while preserving their bizarre quantum properties, something that scientists had struggled to do before. As the Nobel Prize committee states, “The Nobel Laureates have opened the door to a new era of experimentation with quantum physics by demonstrating the direct observation of individual quantum particles without destroying them.”

Read more about their work at the Nobel website.


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Lord Haw-Haw.
Lord Haw-Haw.
October 9, 2012 10:14 PM

Thank’s Nancy you are ahead of the posse with this up to the minute video. The link to the Nobel website opens on the page to post greetings to the laureates. The jargon-free assessment of Haroche & Wineland’s research is available by clicking here:


Lawrence B. Crowell
Lawrence B. Crowell
October 9, 2012 11:07 PM
Of course the gold standard is to combine these two. A high-Q cavity that holds a photon between two mirrors could also have a trapped atom or ion. If the atom as in its outer electron shell a possible transition between two states with energy E and E’ one could them observe the photon becoming absorbed by the atom if the photon has energy ? = ?? = E’ – E, for ? = 2?? and ? the frequency of light. If the atom is in the lower energy E the photon has some quantum probability of absorbing the photon and having its energy level raised to E’. Similarly of course there is a quantum amplitude (amplitude squared… Read more »
Sankaravelayudhan Nandakumar
Sankaravelayudhan Nandakumar
October 13, 2012 9:16 AM
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2012 was awarded jointly to Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland “for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems” Their ground-breaking methods have enabled this field of research to take the very first steps towards building a new type of super fast computer based on quantum physics,” the academy said. “The research has also led to the construction of extremely precise clocks that could become the future basis for a new standard of time. Quantum-optics pioneer Alain Aspect of Laboratoire Charles Fabry in Paris told physicsworld.com “Observing, manipulating and controlling individual quantum systems has been a major breakthrough of the last few decades. Schrödinger doubted that it might… Read more »